‘Draw only’ elk license proposal denied

Pagosa Country elk hunters, fearing possible inception of “draw only” license limitations between the Animas River and Wolf Creek Pass, can rest easy. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), a request to restrict area license availability will not move forward.

On March 5, former DOW Director John Mumma e-mailed the Colorado Wildlife Commission (CWC) and asked it to, “Please accept this nomination for DAU (Data Analysis Unit) E-31 for a totally limited elk season.”

As defined by the commission, a DAU is a geographic area representing the year-round range of a specific big game herd, including all of its seasonal ranges. A DAU typically encompasses several Game Management Units (GMUs), while a few contain just one. DAU E-31 spans an area bordered on the north by the Continental Divide, the south by the New Mexico state line, the east by Wolf Creek Pass, and the west by the Animas River.

Though DAU E-31 embodies GMUs 75, 751, 77, 771 and 78, Mumma’s original notice of intent to nominate it for limited draw cited GMUs 77, 771, 78 and 76, the latter of which is part of another DAU (E-34) altogether, and is already limited. In a subsequent e-mail sent to The SUN, however, Mumma explained that excluding GMUs 75 and 751, while including GMU 76, “is an error-oversight,” and that he truly intended to nominate the entire DAU E-31 as it actually exists.

When asked why he felt it necessary to seek limited entry in DAU E-31, Mumma explained, “The area is simply being overrun with hunters, many that take advantage of the “over-the-count-license” that the area currently allows. Hunter use has grown so much over the past several decades that the success rates and “quality-of-the-experience” has declined. This use starts with the primitive weapons hunts, including both archery and black powder and continues through the following 3-4 rifle seasons. I believe that this is the issue that needs to be addressed.”

Mumma justified his stand by noting that he’s hunted and worked in the area since the late 1950s and knows it quite well. As a Pagosa Springs resident in the 1960s, he said, he appreciates the values and impacts that hunting seasons have in the community.

While he wouldn’t predict whether his proposal might succeed, Mumma did say the process is “horribly bureaucratic” and cumbersome, and seems to favor large groups of people, many who hunt and others who don’t. He acknowledged that, as with all issues, there were supporters and opponents.

For the CWC to consider Mumma’s application, it had to contain a completed 2010 Limited Elk Nomination Form, including a proposed bull/cow objective or other DAU management objective; verification that all major interest groups had received a copy of the completed nomination form; and documented public support for the nomination. Mumma had until May 1 to complete the application.

In response, Mumma evidently sent notices to a variety of interest groups, including several hunting clubs and organizations, local town and county governments, the commission and the DOW. Though failing to recommend a specific bull-to-cow ratio for DAU E-31, he suggested it be increased from the current 14 bulls to 100 cows, “to approach a ratio of somewhere between 20-30 bulls per 100 cows.”

The stickler, though, came in illustrating public support for his plan.

While the CWC says it evaluates nominations based on public consent for the management change (as well as its potential for supporting the proposed management objective), Mumma apparently fell short of garnering adequate public approval.

In a simple e-mail statement sent to The SUN June 12, DOW Public Information Specialist Joe Lewandowski wrote, “The proposal to totally limit elk hunting in the Four Corners area won’t be moving forward. The Colorado Wildlife Commission decided not to move the proposal from John Mumma forward. The commission decided at its meeting on Thursday in Trinidad that there was no show of public support for the proposal.”

For now, at least, and perhaps for the next five years, existing elk hunting regulations for DAU E-31 will remain in tact. And, barring any unforeseen adverse circumstances, unlimited elk licenses will be available to Pagosa Country hunters.